Life in the orphanage is hard- a true 'dog eat dog' hierarchy where every kid fends for himself and fights for status and privileges. But there are a handful of extra-special kids living in the Romanian orphanage system that don't adhere to these cut-throat practices. I call them The Protectors. Their stories are incredible, sad, heroic, desperate, and ultimately rooted in love. The Protectors at the orphanage we were working in this past trip are kids who have gone through extraordinary measures to protect and deliver their brothers and sisters to safety.
While other kids steal food and clothing from their peers, the Protectors watch over their young siblings and make sure their needs are met. They comfort them when they are scared or hurt, visit them when they are sent to the hospital, and make sure they get to play with the ball when its their turn.
Here are very brief versions of a couple of their stories.
Flori and Ana
They arrived at the orphanage early in the Spring. Ana clung to Flori, hiding behind her legs and peering out fearfully. A few months passed and a group of Gypsies arrived at the orphanage claiming to be their family. The woman was dressed in flowing skirts and glistening gold chains. The men that accompanied her wore dirty shirts. One man- an uncle- leered at the girls and shifted his eyes around. Flori was careful to keep a close watch on Ana while the family visited. The girls' relief when their family finally left the orphanage was apparent.
We haven't yet heard the girls' whole story about what brought them to the orphanage, but its safe to say that their life and living situation has improved. Ana is now not the fearful urchin hiding behind her big sister, but the first kid waiting by the orphanage steps to greet us when we arrive. Flori, who had very little education upon her arrival, received the top award in her class this year, after only a few months on consistent schooling.
Flori continues to watch out for her little sister, spending hours by her bedside this summer while Ana was in the hospital with a minor cold. Flori missed out on fun activities with one of our teams to stay with her.
Ionut, Georgiana, and Iulica
Ionut was not yet 12 years old when he heard the screaming coming from his family's house. He rushed inside and gathered his little sister Georgiana and brother Iulica to his side. The gunshot that echoed through their village forever altered their lives and Ionut's childhood memories.
The three children arrived at the orphanage with the horrible memory of their father murdering their mother in front of their eyes. Its taken years for the kids to begin to reclaim their childhood.
Slowly but surely, Georgiana and Iulica have become the friendliest kids at the orphanage. They are eager to please, first in line to try a new game, and always offering hugs to our missionaries.
Ionut has had a harder time. While still a sweet kid, perhaps the memories are just too vivid to completely relax around adults. He still ferociously protects his little siblings- always making sure their needs are met before meeting his own.
Nicu and Vic
Nicu and Vic spent years on the streets with their Gypsy family. They moved from city to city begging and stealing. The had two older sisters. One mysteriously passed away. Who knows what kinds of horrors they faced. Nicu hated stealing, Vic hated begging. While they won't mention much about their parents, something finally set Nicu off enough to grab Vic and flee over 100 miles to where they thought their grandparents lived. Instead of finding grandparents, Nicu and Vic were eventually delivered to the orphanage. Nicu is extremely behind in school, finally passing 1st grade as a 12 year old. Vic was rescued from Nicu's same fate by his older brother and is doing much better at school.
Vic eagerly hugs and kisses our missionaries, is learning music and art, and loves to play. Nicu is the kid always in the back of the crowd.
He is cautious when it comes to trusting. However he rarely lets Vic out of his sights. Nicu and Vic still hate stealing and begging and stare are their peers with disdain when they crowd around our teams begging for candy or prizes.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Well, I've tried to post more about our recent Romania trip but still no new blog entries. For some reason I've had a harder time processing this last trip than normal. I suppose I'll get there eventually- and will add some more photos soon, but in the meantime, I have a few distractions to share.
Since returning home from Romania, my new past-time has been attending baby showers (hehe). I've had some fun hand- crafting baby gifts for my expecting friends.
My new favorite creation is custom bunting. Here's a bird theme for my friend Lauren's little bundle of joy coming in November:
Our other good friends, Ben and Kelly, asked me to help them with a monster theme for their nursery... I got a little carried away but I think they like it!
Here's a shot of the monsters in the crib ready and waiting for Baby Wright! (note the Killer Tomato onesie also hand crafted by Moi)
Our other 'distraction' was actually a pleasant surprise. I received an urgent text message from my mom on a Sunday afternoon- "JT baptism-be at church at 5!"
My brother decided to join a couple dozen other believers from our church for a baptism service out on the lawn. A portable pool was set up, the worship band was playing, and hot dogs and cokes were offered near by. Not quite your typical baptism service- but it accomplished the same thing.
JT 'took the plunge' to identify with Christ, in obedience in Christ, and to publicly associate with Christ's church. Baptism is a powerful image of proclaiming belief,
dying to one's old self,
and then being reborn as a new creation.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Dear Neglected Blog,
I'm sorry I haven't written in so long. You see my days have been very busy- mostly with helping Romanian orphans tie friendship bracelets, or getting my butt kicked in basketball games. But I haven't forgotten you- No! I've thought long and hard about what to write- should I recall the events of my day, like when Ana, the older girl living at the orphanage asked me about how God could be our shepherd and what Psalm 23 meant... or the story of how little Nico and Vic ran away from their gyspsy family and traveled over 100 miles by foot and hitchhiking to find a better life... or do I mention the 18 year old boy with cerebral palsy who has spent his entire life in a hospital crib, unable to move the smallest of muscles...so much to say and so hard to really express what's been going on here...
So over the next few days I'll try to fill in the gaps, with stories and photos of Mr. I and my trip here to Romania. But please be patient with me- I want to do these stories- and these kids- the justice they deserve and tell their stories correctly.
Thanks for still hanging out here- I hope the wait will be worth it!
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Saturday was more fun at the orphanage. The kids loved playing a few water games, painting nails, and of course kicking around the futbal! Austin and I loved getting to know a few kids better. Austin's highlight was playing basketball with a couple kids and team members- and assisting Iulica- a 12 year old in scoring points. My highlight- aside from being able to take photos of these beautiful kids- was having little Vic (age 7/8) paint my finger nails- very, very carefully. He would painstakingly paint each nail, blow on them to dry the nail polish, and wipe off any extra is he made a mistake. He was so enthused with his finished masterpiece- my sloppily painted coral-colored nails. Not the color I would chose- nor the skills needed to really paint nails well, but the joy on Vic's face at accomplishing something 'beautiful' (in his eyes) was worth a thousand manicures!
Today we attended church at AlphaOmega- our home church here in Romania. It was fun to re-connect with old friends and participate in worship and Communion with fellow believers. After lunch out, we returned to the team house for a pool party with the Transition House grads- the former orphans who went through our Transition Program. The kids had a blast swimming and hanging out with the team. Austin was able to talk to one of our favorite's, (shhhhh) Mariana about her life. While hearing about her friends, favorite movies, and how much she loves her job at Starbucks, Austin kept thinking back to a few years ago when he sat with a very different Mariana at her orphanage, trying to convince her to apply to the Girls Transition Home. When he mentioned this to her, Mariana's immediate response was, "Only by the grace of God."
We're so excited to still have several days here in Romania. We'll continue to post updates and photos of our time- and an occasional story too!